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Hagel: US To Retain Military Threat Against Syria

Sep. 18, 2013 - 03:58PM   |  
By AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE   |   Comments
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Nato Says Syria Military Option Should Stay Open

LONDON — NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Wednesday that the threat of military action should remain on the table to make Syria keep its promises on giving up chemical weapons.
Speaking after he met British Prime Minister David Cameron in London, Rasmussen welcomed the recent US-Russian agreement under which the Assad regime says it will give up its poison gas stocks.
Damascus said earlier Wednesday it was confident the UN Security Council will not adopt a resolution on its chemical weapons under Chapter VII, which could allow the use of force.
But Rasmussen said: “I would expect the Syrian regime to fully comply with the demands of the international community and in the case of non-compliance, we will need a very firm international response.”
“I do believe that the credible threat of military action was the reason why diplomacy got a chance and I think in order to keep momentum in the diplomatic and political process, the military option should still be on the table,” he told reporters in Downing Street.
The alliance chief said it was “crucial that the UN Security Council expeditiously adopts a firm resolution that can constitute the framework for a swift, secure and verifiable elimination of all chemical weapons in Syria.”
Rasmussen said the use of chemical weapons “is a crime, is a violation of international law and those responsible must be held accountable.”
US President Barack Obama threatened military action against Syria following an Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack on a Damascus suburb that allegedly killed hundreds of people, but held off after the US-Russian deal.
The United States, France and Britain want compulsory measures under Chapter VII of the UN Charter if Syria does not uphold the disarmament plan.
But Russia, a key ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, is firmly opposed to anything that could pave the way for the use of force.

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WASHINGTON — The US military will maintain the threat of force against Syria in case the regime fails to abide by an agreement to relinquish control of its chemical weapons, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Wednesday.

“We should keep that military option exactly where it is. We have assured the president that our assets and force posture remain the same,” Hagel told a press conference.

“We are prepared to exercise any option that he would select.”

Hagel’s comments made clear the United States had no plans to withdraw destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean, which had been prepared to launch cruise missile attacks to punish Damascus over its alleged use of chemical weapons.

He said it was clear “the credible threat of US force” helped to persuade Syria to agree to a US-Russia accord that calls for the regime to turn over its chemical arsenal to international control.

US defense officials told AFP four destroyers equipped with Tomahawk cruise missiles remained in place in the eastern Mediterranean, ready to launch a possible attack if diplomacy fails.

Hagel and Gen. Martin Dempsey, the US military’s top-ranking officer, also said the administration was still considering whether to have the Pentagon take over the arming of Syria’s rebels from the Central Intelligence Agency, which would involve larger-scale assistance.

Despite agreeing to the deal on securing Syria’s chemical weapons, Washington and Moscow remain at odds over who carried out the Aug. 21 chemical attack outside Damascus.

Russia says the Syrian regime has handed over new evidence implicating rebel forces in the deadly incident.

But US President Barack Obama has said it was “inconceivable” that anyone other than the Syrian regime could have carried out the attack.

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